Friday, 20 May 2011
It seems the government has been persuaded that the current rules set out in Part 6 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO should be relaxed to some extent, so that development for agricultural purposes should become easier in future. The precise details are currently subject to consultation and the actual changes still lie in the future.
I am not sure that I agree with the proposition on which the proposed changes appear to be based; farmers can hardly complain of being tied up in red tape so far as the already fairly light regulation of agricultural development is concerned. I have never really felt that there was any justification for exempting agriculture from the planning system, especially since intensive farming methods, the proliferation of ‘prairie’ farming, the removal of hedges and copses and the erection of large tin sheds and silos, not to mention the establishment of extensive areas of polytunnels in fruit-growing areas, have all had a significant impact on the character and appearance of the countryside.
It seems to me that there is absolutely no reason why all building and engineering operations on agricultural land should not require express planning permission like any other built development, and I would scrap agricualtural Permitted Development rights altogether. It is true that the current rules set out in Part 6 are complex, in some cases ambiguous and in certain respects anomalous, but rather than tinkering with the GPDO (bearing in mind the mess the last government made of Part 1) it would be a great deal easier to scrap Part 6 altogether, and to subject agricultural development to the normal development control regime.
No doubt any such proposal would provoke screams of agony from the NFU, but it seems to me that farmers have had it far too much their own way over the past 60 years or more. The justification back then, in the wake of the Second World War, was the need to ensure the security of the nation’s home-grown food supplies, and no doubt the agricultural depression of the pre-war era was also a factor in the government’s thinking at that time. However, that is no excuse for what is now a thoroughly outdated ‘feather-bedding’ of the agricultural industry, especially when modern farming methods have a much increased capacity to impact on our environment.
No doubt townies like me will be told that we ‘don’t understand the countryside’, and that the ability of farmers to do exactly what they want, wherever and whenever they want is absolutely crucial to their economic survival and for the future of the countryside. I don’t believe it for one moment. It is high time they were brought fully into the planning system like everyone else.
© MARTIN H GOODALL